Eight years ago a new TV show premiered that would reshape the superhero genre as we understood it. We were introduced to a spoiled playboy who is rescued from a nightmarish island after having been stranded there for 5 years, and in that time he is broken down and rebuilt not only into someone different, he’s also something different. Upon returning home he begins his crusade against those who failed his home city. He would start to recruit people to help him in his fight. Along the way, other superheroes, or metahumans as they would be called, started to appear, and some of them fought side-by-side with him. That man was Oliver Queen, and he was also known as the Green Arrow.
Many TV shows of this nature make use of the “hero’s journey” theme, and no one else had a journey like Oliver. From the moment he washed up on the island of Lian Yu his journey began, and Lian Yu was his taskmaster. As the playboy, he had the furthest to fall, making his rise as a superhero the most challenging. When the powers that be over at the CW decided to expand this world and bring in other superheroes the Green Arrow became the defacto leader. His real-world experience taught him how to guide and lead by example. In a sense, he became their father figure, but even leaders continue to falter, and if there was any superhero who was flawed there were none who were as badly flawed as Oliver. His past sins saw him father a child out of wedlock that would have a brief, but devastating negative effect on his relationship with the woman who would become the love of his life; Felicity Smoak. There would be other trials that would tear any normal person into shreds, but Oliver kept going because his moral compass continually pointed in the direction of truth, honor, and love. It is that moral compass that turned this entire network of TV shows that resided in the “Arrow-verse” on its head when a multi-verse ending event was looming on the horizon. From the beginnings of The Flash, it had been foretold that the hero Flash (aka Barry Allen) was going to disappear during this “crisis,” and even Barry looked at all the possible timelines and the only one where the world survived with his wife and friends was where he died saving them from an anti-matter wave generating machine. But again the Green Arrow interceded on Barry’s behalf, and unbeknownst to both Barry and Supergirl (who lived on another Earth in a parallel universe), Oliver made a deal that would see them both spared.
This is amusing on a personal note because I had read the original Crisis On Infinite Earths yearlong comic book series that had its run in the mid-’80s and in that series both Supergirl and the Flash died. Now 35 years later we see Oliver stepping forth and offering to give his life in exchange for Flash and Supergirl when the crisis arrives. When that fateful day finally arrived we saw a man who had purged practically all of his demons and embodied all that is pure, good, and noble in humanity. While his life did indeed end, Oliver Queen ended up leaving a legacy and world that is built entirely on hope, which included managing to bring back some people that had been previously lost.
As this series came to a close we saw a reunion of loved ones who were all connected due to Oliver’s goodness. They came together to fight the good fight just one more time and rescue Oliver’s son, giving Star City just one more bit of legacy to honor the Green Arrow, and while those heroes who fought by Green Arrow’s side may not be needed in Star City anymore, the seed that was planted within each of them would follow them as they continued that good fight individually wherever life took them.
What helped to keep this show so solid was its consistency with its cast and creative crew. Show creators Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim were there from the beginning to the end, which served to maintain the high quality this series was known for. However, what made it all work for them was its cast and the one person who became the glue for this show is Stephen Amell as Oliver. Eight years with a TV series is a long time and playing Oliver undoubtedly took its toll on Amell. Comic book characters can potentially live forever in the pages of their books, where the greatest risk for injury might be a sprained wrist suffered by the colorist. However, television is a different story and actors do not live forever. A lot can happen to a person in eight years and despite Amell’s continued integrity in how he played Oliver it had become clear that it was time to hang up the hood and call it a day. Thankfully Berlanti, Guggenheim, and their team decided to give Oliver that heroic sendoff and it was done with both power and grace. Amell’s approach to portraying Oliver transcended what we saw on the screen. Instead of just playing a character he ended up bringing that character to life. Now Amell and Oliver Queen would go on that hero’s journey together and Amell showed what it was like for someone like Oliver to be the hero that we all need. It was no wonder when the supporting characters came to say goodbye to Oliver that it was done so beautifully that I could not help but shed several tears. And yet, the series closed out with a sense of hope for the future.
Seeds were planted towards the end that saw the possible arrival of an emerald ring-bearing hero, as well as several female heroes who would come together in the future and continue that honorable fight. I must also mention that despite Oliver’s death during the crisis, the finale gave one of the most beautiful endings for Oliver’s wife Felicity, AND Oliver! If that sounds confusing then go watch the final episode “Fadeout” and you’ll see what I mean!
In the end, Arrow defied the odds and became a tentpole series for the CW. It took some amazing risks in how its stories would be told, and it introduced characters that would be beloved almost as much as Oliver. However, when I think of this series I see the face of Stephen Amell. I hear his soft-spoken voice, not the angry voice of the hero telling his victim that they have failed this city. Instead, I hear him speaking quietly as he would speak to his TV wife. I see his expression in one of the very last scenes of the show. It’s an expression of love and satisfaction. In my heart, I cannot help but feel a sense of sadness, for I will miss Arrow. There are still other shows for me to watch and enjoy on the CW, but Arrow became the show that I had to watch, and I credit the show creators and Stephen Amell for that. I will miss Stephen Amell as my favorite emerald archer. To Stephen, I would say this; you have done well. You are entitled to a restful period with your real family, and you have every reason to feel good for what you’ve done. You have left your mark and gave TV viewers your own legacy that will endure for many years to come, and that is not something that many people today can say.